(File photo) Boris Johnson Photograph:( Reuters )
The British government unveiled an 'Internal Markets Bill' last month which is now winding its way through parliament and would override parts of the Brexit treaty that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck with the European Union last year
Britain stood by its provocative bid to change the terms of its EU divorce deal on Monday, as a make-or-break week of post-Brexit trade talks began under a storm cloud.
Britain's Brexit supremo, Michael Gove, said on Monday that the clauses of the Internal Market Bill that undercut the Withdrawal Treaty would remain, despite a demand from the European Union that London scrap them.
The British government unveiled an "Internal Markets Bill" last month which is now winding its way through parliament and would override parts of the Brexit treaty that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck with the European Union last year.
Johnson argues it will provide a "safety net" against what he claimed are EU threats to impose tariffs on UK internal trade and even stop food going from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland, although his government has admitted that in overwriting a treaty it breaks international law.
The proposed law has infuriated the Europeans, who had demanded that it be withdrawn or amended before a deadline of Wednesday this week, but, after his meeting in Brussels with Sefcovic, Gove insisted it would not be changed.
"We want to make sure that the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented in full," Gove told reporters after talks in Brussels with European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic.
"But those clauses are there, they're in legislation, supported by the House of Commons, as a safety net, if need be. And those clauses will remain in that bill."
Gove said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been very clear that there needed to be progress in trade talks between chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost for the process to conclude in time.
After talks with Sefcovic on the implementation of the 2020 Brexit divorce treaty, Gove said: "We had a constructive meeting. We both were clear with each other where we were still some distance apart but we were both also clear that we wanted to bridge that gap."
He added: "Maros Sefcovic and I are committed to using every moment available: every second, every minute, every hour, in order to reach agreement and I'm confident that we will."
The last scheduled round of trade talks begins on Tuesday as scores of officials meet in Brussels in talks presided by Europe's Michel Barnier and his counterpart David Frost.
"This is the final formal round of negotiations but we expect discussion to continue in the run up to the European council, which is taking place on 15 to 16 October," a Downing Street spokesman said.
"Significant gaps remain as the EU still needs to adopt more realistic policy positions, but we are ready to work as hard as necessary to move things forward this week."
Both London and Brussels say a deal on a free trade agreement must be struck by mid-October to allow time for it to be ratified before coming into force from January 1 next year.
Failure to do so would see trade conducted on World Trade Organization rules, with higher tariffs and quotas and almost certain economic chaos for Britain and Europe.